Tuesday, August 24, 2010
This lush, fascinating city was a wonderful surprise, a real high point in our time in India thus far. Of the five cities we are visiting on this tour, it was the only one neither of us had heard of prior to the invitation, but now that we've visited, we can't wait to go back.
Here are four highlights of our time in Hyderabad:
1. Attending the Night Markets around Charminar during Ramadan
...and then going to the famous Irani hotel, Medina, and ordering haleem, a dish they only make during Ramadan. It's made of mutton and wheat and ghee, and lots of spices, and it's all boiled together for at least 12 hours.
And how was it? Well, both Mike and I really liked the flavor, but the texture takes some getting used to. Basically, the meat is boiled until it disintegrates into long stringy pieces, so you can't tell the meat apart from anything else. A kind of meaty pudding, if you will.
It reminded me of the recent season of Top Chef Masters, in which Marcus Samuelsson showed off his African cooking skills, and the judges were like, "These flavors rock, but, um, is the texture supposed to be this way?"
And he was like, "Yeah. Totally."
And they were like, "Oh. Ok. You win."
2. Conducting a workshop with up-and-coming young theater artists
These are some of the participants, having coffee and cookies with us in the courtyard of one of the buildings of the famous Nizam who once ruled all of Hyderabad, and whom Time magazine put on their cover in 1937 as being the richest man in the world.
Also there was one of those incredibly sharp Indian mutts, whom Mike and I have taken to calling "The Great Indian Street Dog." Smart little guys, navigating busy streets at just a few weeks old when I can barely do the same at 33. This one was particularly charismatic, and managed to cajole at least a dozen cookies out of the participants (and none from us, the dog-worshiping Americans!).
3. Walking barefoot across the white marble of a Hindu temple
After Mike launched the workshop, I walked up the hill to this all-white, glowing marble temple, one of many throughout India built by the wealthy Birla family.
Sadly for this post, no cameras were allowed inside, but I can tell you that it made the whole experience like a peaceful dream.
We checked our shoes at the door, and it's true that there's a connection you feel with the ground when barefoot. You become so much more aware of your every step.
The path through the temple wound us round and round the marble edifice, until it led us to its heart, where holy men laid their hands on people.
I had no clue what the customs were; I just watched everyone else and they were tolerant of me, the only white face in the bunch. As people left they marked each other's foreheads and laid pieces of rock sugar on their tongues.
I noticed that some of the mothers holding young children also had markings on the side of their necks and cheeks--from where the foreheads of their little ones had rubbed against them, I realized.
The whole temple sits at the top of a hill, so a welcome cool breeze blows throughout. Overhead, falcons circled, and incense seemed to be wafting from the surrounding green treetops.
It was absolutely wonderful.
4. Performing our show about technology and lust and consequences for a packed house of IT workers and business students
The thing about theater is that you can't distribute it as easily as you can a movie or even a book. Mike has to be there each and every time the thing is shown, and he's only got 365 days in his year, just like the rest of us.
So it really was an awesome treat to get to perform this show for a crowd of young IT workers and future business leaders. It was probably worth the whole trip to India, just having this time with these people, for whom China is not a far-away place, and for whom the implications of the shifting market are very, very real. It was a gift.
Hyderabad is a huge IT hub, rivaling Bangalore, and the hall where we performed was just down the street from a huge Microsoft campus--the first one built outside of my home state.
And sure enough, we had lots of Microsoft employees there, iPhones in hand, eager to discuss the piece afterward.